dockyards built in Woolwich, so I am interested to find out more about this historic naval and military town.
This small, round building is the entrance to the Woolwich foot tunnel. This foot tunnel was opened in 1912, ten years after the Greenwich foot tunnel. It was built to provide easy access to the docks north of the river for the workers who lived south of the river. The digging of the tunnels was achieved by using a tunnelling shield but the excavation was done entirely by hand. The tunnel is 1655 feet long (504m) which is a little longer than the Greenwich foot tunnel. it is 69 feet (21m) deep. There is a lift if you don't fancy climbing up and down the stairs. Although the tunnel was open when I walked past the lift wasn't so I didn't bother going down all those steps just for a photo!
Just beyond the blocks of flats is the Woolwich Arsenal. It was here in 1695 that the Royal Laboratory was set up. It was decided by the Board of Ordnance to move the manufacture of powder and filling shells from the populated area of Greenwich to the more remote Royal Warren where it was called the Royal Laboratory. During the 1700s it also housed a firework factory. Building then developed gradually in response to different military campaigns and advances in technology.
In successive years the first barracks took up residency on site and a theatre was erected. The Royal Artillery Band also established a base at Woolwich (1762-2014) and the Royal Military Academy opened with courses that included dancing and drawing. After a visit by George III in 1805 he changed its name from Royal Laboratory to the Royal Arsenal. referred to as the Secret City
From 1806 after the departure of the Royal Military Academy the area concentrated on ammunition manufacturing and packing and became a self-contained factory complex. In 1886 factory workers formed a football team and club known as Dial Square FC. It later relocated north of the river and is known today as Arsenal FC.
During WW1 Woolwich Arsenal was referred to as the Secret City employing an estimated 80,000 people around half of whom were women. The jobs were dangerous and physically demanding. Handling explosive chemicals stained the female munition workers' hair and skin yellow, giving them the nickname 'canary girls'. The Secret City continued making ammunition throughout WW2 and on until manufacturing ceased in 1967 and the Ministry of Defence left in 1994.
By the early 20th century the site was three miles long and one mile wide and had three separate internal rail systems. Most of the buildings still remain. Some have now been converted for residential use, a gym, a museum and offices.
The London Borough of Greenwich which now owns the site is converting other buildings into a huge arts centre which will have resident orchestras, theatre groups, restaurants, cafes etc. It was due to open the first phase in 2020 but obviously the pandemic has changed all that and I'm not sure when it will be finished and ready to open.
It is possible to walk around the site so let me show you some more of the buildings. These were the guardrooms, built in 1814/5. The river is on the other side of the wall behind the guardrooms. They are now used as coffee shops.
This gun is part of the Royal Artillery's collection. More information below:
Rifle shell factory gateway
The gates were cast for the shell foundry at the Regents Canal Iron Works in 1856. They were erected here in 1991.
This was the grand store.
I noticed this lock and I left the path to have a look.
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